Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
There is one man responsible for the turnaround in Anaheim and it's head coach Bruce Boudreau.
I am closing out our week of midseason awards. So far we've seen a pretty good consensus: Ryan Getzlaf, Saku Koivu are two of the main reasons the Ducks are succeeding; it's really kind of difficult to find an LVP when things are going pretty well; and Andrew Cogliano can actually score goals?!
First Half MVP - Bruce Boudreau
What a difference a year makes. This time last year, the Ducks had just come off of a ridiculous January and February point-run to try to make it into the playoffs. In March, they pooped out and couldn't overcome the large deficit they'd created earlier in the season. There was one thing I learned about the team and their incredible run - the key players on the Ducks had 'bought in' to what head coach Bruce Boudreau was selling, a good sign for the following season.
For years it's been, as Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan go, so go the Ducks. That's a lot of pressure on three guys in their mid-20's. With Bruce, the Ducks aren't depending on those three, plus Teemu Selanne, to win the game every single night. The scoring has been spread out among the players and are aided by fresh goaltenders.
At the end of last season, Bruce was heralding the play of Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano and I had no idea why because they were average players. Look at where they are now. Boudreau found the strengths of his group and has made sure everyone can play together when he juggles his lines.
After years of the disciplinarian style of Randy Carlyle, the Ducks needed a players coach. They got one and he's pretty good.
Runners Up: Getzlaf and the third line of Cogliano, Daniel Winnik and Saku Koivu.
First Half LVP - Idiots who name their fantasy hockey teams 'Trade Kyle Palmieri'.
I need to eat some crow. I was totally wrong about Palmieri. He can play in the NHL and has finally found a steady place in the lineup. As long as he can stay healthy and continue to sync with Nick Bonino (when he's healthy), he's got a legit chance at being a 25+ goal scorer. I'd like to think my campaigning to get him traded is what caused him to step up his game. Haha, even I can't type that last sentence with a straight face.
First Half Biggest Surprise - Andrew Cogliano.
More than once last season, I think I called him the worst player in the history of the NHL. Uh, yeah about that. Now that he knows his role in the lineup and has complementary linemates, he's one of the Ducks secret weapons. One of my favorite parts of Cogs game is the penalty kill (definitely wouldn't have said THAT last season). He and Emerson Etem use their speed to poke the puck out of the zone and fly down the ice to get it. The amount of odd-man opportunities those two create is pretty incredible.
First Half Biggest Disappointment - Comparisons of this team to the 2007 Cup team.
The main things these two teams have in common are the logos, the hot starts and having two extremely strong goaltenders (Fasth and Hiller versus Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov). It's a little sad to think the only players still left from 2007 are 2/3's of the Kid Line (Perry and Getzlaf), 1/3 of the top line (Selanne) and Francois Beauchemin.
The 2007 team was built to me big, mean, nasty and to wear you down or kill you. The 2013 team is built with size and speed but plays a much more offensive minded game. The 'Grind Line of Rob Niedermayer, Sami Pahlsson and Travis Moen has been replaced by the 'Blue Collar Line' of Koivu, Cogliano and Winnik. While Beauch and Sheldon Souray are pretty good, they're no Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger.
One big difference is the mentality game to game. This team has lost in back to back games only once. (One of my favorite Boudreau quotes, "Good teams don't lose back-to-back games.") The 2007 team put together multiple three-plus game losing streaks. The length of seasons could have a part in it but playing almost every other night in a 48 game season versus the less compact stretches of an 82 game season seems much tougher to me.
140 Character Prediction For The Second Half - Meet & lose to CHI in WCF. Perry walks. Saku, Teemu 2013-14 victory/farewell lap around NHL